Trump Expected to Extend Iran Sanction Relief, Breaking Election Promise for Third Time

White House says announcement expected later Friday ■ Trump may give Congress, EU deadline to address 'loopholes' in Iran deal, NYT reports

A man watches a television broadcast of U.S. President Donald Trump's speech, in Tehran, Iran October 13, 2017. Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi/TIMA via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
TIMA AGENCY/REUTERS

WASHINGTON - The White House is expected to announce on Friday that President Donald Trump is extending the sanction relief that Iran received as part of the nuclear deal signed in 2015.

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The announcement will mean that for the time being, the United States is not withdrawing from the nuclear deal or is not currently proactively working to see it canceled, despite the fact that Trump promised to do so during his election campaign. The decision was reached following weeks of internal debate inside the senior ranks of the administration.

Trump, however, is also expected to stress that unless Congress finds a way to deal with certain weak points his administration has identified in the deal, he will, at some point in the future, fulfil his promise to get rid of it altogether.

The New York Times reported on Thursday night that Trump may present a final deadline for Congress and for America's European allies. Trump, according to the report, will declare that unless measures are taken to address these "loopholes," he will pull the U.S. out of the deal on a specific predefined date. 

If Trump indeed extends the sanction relief it will be the third time since entering office last January that he stopped short of withdrawing from the nuclear deal.

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Trump had two previous chances to kill the accord, which he has called "the worst deal I have ever seen," and in both occasions he chose not to do so. The last time he had to make a decision on the subject was in October – at the time, he gave a speech denouncing the deal, but left the final decision on re-imposing sanctions to Congress. In the months that have since passed, lawmakers did not take any action that could jeopardize the deal. 

While the sanctions related to the nuclear deal are not expected to be re-imposed on Friday, the administration will take other measures against Iran, not related directly to the nuclear deal. These will include steps against Iran's ballistic missile program and against Hezbollah's international narcotics and finance activities.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on Thursday that he expected Trump to impose new sanctions on Iran. "I am expecting new sanctions on Iran," Mnuchin told reporters. "We continue to look at them. We've rolled them out and I think you can expect there will be more sanctions coming."

Trump faces a Friday deadline on the issue. A U.S. official said on Wednesday that if Trump waived those sanctions, the administration would impose new, targeted measures against Iranian businesses and people. 

New restrictions could hit some firms and individuals whose sanctions were scrapped under the 2015 nuclear agreement, a decision that could test Tehrans willingness to abide by its side of the bargain.

Trump must also decide by Friday to extend the nuclear-related sanctions relief for Irans central bank or re-impose the restrictions that President Barack Obama suspended two years ago.